There is an art and science to getting blog posts to travel like wildfire.
This post will look at both, based on number crunching with 281 posts, 39,000+ comments, and almost 2,000,000 click-throughs via my Twitter profile and Facebook fan page in the last six months.
Here’s what I’ve found to work well…
In this context, more than anything else, the “art” is coming up with good headlines.
I presented the above slide to a Fortune 100 company that wanted to encourage employees to blog. The problem? Their employees (mostly high-end engineers), as brilliant as they were, had no idea what to write about. My suggestion was (and always is): focus on an obsession that makes you a bit weird. Then tie it to something that interests more people.
Just invite a few friends to dinner, look at the graphic, and follow the instructions. It’s fun.
Into trapeze or German techno? Our starting headlines might be “How to Perform 5 Tricks on the Flying Trapeze” or “German Techno 101.” That’s just a starting point. Then we expand to what your wider circle of friends or co-workers might be interested in. For example:
“How German Techno Can Make You a Better Agile Programmer”
“5 Principles of Flying Trapeze for Better Hiring Decisions”
See how that works? This recipe works, and it’s a plug-and-play format for getting started, and getting traffic.
Once you’ve had a bit of practice, it’s oftentimes easier — and more scalable — to imitate what works elsewhere.
The “science” is borrowing headlines or testing them. Determining pass-along-value by the numbers.
How do you know if you have a good headline?
There are several simple ways. One indication: a tweet gets retweeted hundreds of times in less time than it would take to read what you linked to. People retweet without reading where the link leads?!? All the time. Plan accordingly.
My last five posts have been retweeted 931, 508, 343, 683, and 813 times, for an average of 655.6 times.
For clicks, the pay-off can be handsome. In my case, these retweets can often drive 10,000+ unique visitors to a post. Here are a few popular blog post titles, tracked using SU.PR [Ed. Note: SU.PR was discontinued in 2013] from StumbleUpon:
Click here for large, more readable size.
How do you learn what works? Headlines are as old as writing itself.
There are many sources, but rankings and data sets (often prolific bloggers) are what you want. The simple version is: study Digg (look at “7 Days” or longer) and Seth Godin (look at the most retweeted).
Seth is a brilliant copywriter and outstanding headline craftsman. I notice one of his repeating headline patterns appeared to be “The Difference Between [A] and [B]”, which I tested successfully with “The Difference: Living Well vs. Doing Well.”
What the hell does my post title mean, exactly?
Never tell the whole story in the headline if you want optimal click-through. “Home Prices Drop 47%, Largest Single-Quarter Drop in 50 Years” isn’t nearly as good as “Largest Drop in Home Prices Since 1960: The Reasons, Numbers, and What You Can Do.” There’s another element in the latter that makes it superior: it’s prescriptive instead of merely descriptive. People don’t want more information about their problems; they want solutions to their problems.
Piquing curiosity can be done with questions instead of statements, and my question-based post titles are some of the best performing (such as “Why Are You Single? Perhaps It’s The Choice Effect“), unless used more than 20% of the time, at which point, it appears that readers suffer “question burnout” and click-through plummets. This is a common problem with (over)use of lists (“17 Things You Can Do For…” etc.).
Would “Why Are You Single?” have worked well by itself? I don’t think so. But what the hell is “The Choice Effect”? Once again, this is exactly the point. I want that question to bother you enough that you click on the link and, most important, read the piece.
Which of these two posts from Seth’s blog do you think did best, as measured by retweets?
How long before you run out of talking points?
Which has a WTF?
The red zone, of course, which got 685 retweets vs. 392 retweets for talking points. WTF FTW! (Yes, I just judo chopped your brain with a palindrome)
But, is the headline the only factor contributing to retweets? Of course not. I’ve purposefully written bare bones posts on other experimental blogs of mine, but crafted headlines by the numbers, to prove (to my satisfaction, at least) that headlines rule in online word-of-mouth.
You can test it yourself: split test on Twitter. But… um, you can’t split test on Twitter, as much as it’d be cool to send version A to half of your followers and version B to the rest.
Or can you? Kind of — you can test headlines with time-zone cohorts who are unlikely to overlap. Huh? In simple terms, this means that I like to publish blog posts at around, say, 2am PST and tweet out the working title at the same time. I did this with “The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing: How Authors Really Make Money” to hit the US-based night owls.
I then like to tweet out a new version B at around 8am PST the following morning (not yet changing the blog post title itself, and I never change the permalink once published), when the night owls will be mostly asleep. I schedule this tweet in advance using SU.PR [Ed. Note: SU.PR was discontinued in 2013], as I’m also a night owl. Last, I compare results and stick with the winner.
This is how “The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing: How Authors Really Make Money” was switched around and became “How Authors Really Make Money: The Rebirth of Seth Godin and Death of Traditional Publishing.” You’ll notice the latter version is in the “most popular” screen shot above for the last 30 days.
It’s an imperfect process, but I’ve found the results replicable.
The exact timing of publication is less important than ensuring that most A cohorts are sleeping when you test the B version, or vice-versa. In my case, non-US/Canadian readers (Brits in particular) can throw the numbers a little, but more than 60% of my readers are from the US and disproportionately located on the east or west coast, based on Facebook Insights.
The Hail Mary Solution
Last but not least, you can always do a Hail Mary blog title. What, pray tell, is that? It’s a title that pays homage to Twitter and becomes recursive.
A good example would be “How to Create Headlines That Get Retweeted.”
Odds and Ends:
1) Is this helpful? Please let me know in the comments what you’d like to read more of.
2) Here’s a sneak peek of a goodie from the “Becoming Superhuman” book: Athletic Greens, which I’ve been using for the last year. I have no financial interest in the company or product.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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236 Replies to “Blogging by Numbers: How to Create Headlines That Get Retweeted”
LMAO @ WTF FTW!
Amazing post, Tim.
Tim this is an excellent post. I will have to read many times to get the fine details.
I’m curious how you track Facebook click throughs. Is that through Su.pr?
If you have time to respond, I’ve also always wondered why you don’t have an opt in form and an email auto responder pitching your book or other stuff, which seems to be standard on the web?
Thanks for the great info
You are one of a kind!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! you rock my world!!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much!!!!
Thanks for the tips Tim!
Specially the one about no giving to much information. I have the tendency to write too much in the headline.
That just judo’ed my mind out.
Could do one “How to Get 500 Blog Comments in 60 Minutes” post right after the blog entry of your next book launch (with a contest to boot—best comment win a copy and a bundle).
I like this article for its succinctness and pragmatism. There’s no fluff, which I dislike. Kudos, Tim.
You’ve impacted many lives than you realize, and am one of them. Your cracking skills never seem to amaze me, and that’s one skill am learning earnestly.
Drop me a mail if you’d like on how I can better master this skill. Am currently transiting from the cube to freedom and I guess I’ll need push the envelope very hard.
With love from Africa
Great to see you actively blogging again Tim! I love your obsession with crunching numbers down into something useful and then the generosity of sharing it with everyone 😀
Really love the insight and sharing of experience in this post. However, some of the differences could be very small though, as over time, content does become the ultimate SEO factor rather than how catchy the headline is. Although I must admit the catchy-ness of the headline dictates whether or not you will get the visits and ultimately the RTs.
Agreed that good content is the ultimate SEO. This post is just focused on the headline factor of getting people to the content.
Awesome name, btw. Stan Lee. Great history to that one.
Good stuff, useful post. I run a quiz blog as a hobby and the headlines tip is worth acting on.
Tim, what a post!
I’m just getting into the social media to drive traffic game. A huge social media following is powerful stuff.
I’m going to look around your blog for other helpful posts.
Got anything on ‘how to get a ton of twitter followers and facebook fans?’
Keep it up
Ps, sorry for throwing your analytics off, I’m a Brit!
Excellent post! Great analysis.
These days am so wary of titles that say “7 things you should know…” or “20 things you must have…”. Perhaps am getting jaded but headlines that are provocative or compel action seem to be what i click on.
If the content is visual it helps to let the person know, with a (pic) (graphic) (infographic) (vid). People are primed to click on such easily consumed content. I’ve used this to rack up 1k-5k RT’s on content before.
@Tim: Thanks for the complement. Are you one of those people who confuse me with the author of Spiderman? (He is killing my SEO btw)
Really helpful stuff, I needed a formula or something more concrete, since no one (editors, friends, readers, ) seemed to like my long, cheesy, or strange headlines. Writing headlines really was a major weakness until now (I hope). Thanks again! 🙂
Thanks for constantly reminding me to look at things scientifically Tim!
I get so lost in introspectionLand sometimes that I forget there’s a world out there that sees things differently than I might imagine.
Robert Cialdini talked about this kind of thing as it pertains to the social realm in his book Influence, that we rely on what we *think* we know about behavior to calibrate our own actions when we might be having the opposite of the intended effect.
I sat down with a blood pressure meter the other day and determined that one of my “chill-out” methods (visualizing myself at the beach and synchronizing my breathing with the incoming and outgoing waves) turned out to raise my systolic BP by an average of 10 points!
Yogic literature warns against manipulating your body via the mind for the same reasons: you often get unpredictable results.
So it is with blogging.
Brilliant article, really agree that headlines are more important than the article itself sometimes. This sort of ‘buzz marketing’ is really gathering speed now and more people are starting to use this for their blogs.
Tim – You continue to add tremendous value to my knowledge and life. If having 1000 true followers is enough, you gained one in me 🙂
Alexa http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/fourhourworkweek.com gives information, that you get 2 times more traffic from Facebook (I know you prefer Twitter). Does the same rules apply to that platform or are there any differences?
I own a gourmet food truck and I have noticed that even though we have a lot more twitter followers then FB followers we get a lot more responses and greater conversion from FB. I get my results from using google analytics and have done an Alexa.com search on my website as well. So I definitely recommend using FB to increase your conversion, but don’t forget the power of twitter as well.
Funny, I’ve also noticed that, too. I’ve only recently re-opened my facebook account – my twitter account has 7x the followers, but they rarely click through to my blog. Facebook, on the other hand not only has a high response rate, but those who visit spend a lot longer.
I tend to think that facebook allows a more personal connection, through being able to explain yourself better, rather hard to do sometimes in 140 characters. Twitter can have the tendency to be shallow, due to the speed and the succinctness required…
My observations and theories only!!
I have one thing I do when selling. Kind of a natural attraction maker and makes sales simpler. Here goes:
1. You see someone having trouble with their car (example).
2. You approach that someone and say to them “I know what the problem is with your car”.
3. That someone curiously asks: what is the problem?
4. You offer to help him in return for a sum of money.
5. That someone wonders how much it would cost him? You ask him in return “what do you want to pay?”.
a) offer a solution
b) you let the buyer sell himself on the offer and frankly sells you on the price so you can avoid it.
I do this and it works charmingly well and makes sales enjoyable for both parties.
And if the buyer mentions a price that is benief the price you expected, then you always have the choice to say no to helping out. So no need to make a loss.
I think creating a good headline is, essentially, all about selling so I just wanted to post this as an add-on.
So why not write “I know why your car does “this and this””? That would obviously be a “Hmm, ok, why?” attractor? No?
5 Time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss – penelopetrunk.com
I found someone who doesn’t seem to like you very much lol.
Ahh well, can’t please everyone.
Thanks Tim for the resource; I’m going to use your suggestion for a couple weeks and see how they work. I’ll leave my stats here in the comments.
Another way to split test headlines is to test across different sites. So tweeting one headline while posting another to facebook will give you some fairly accurate data if you have a good baseline for what percentage of traffic each network will normally send. Don’t forget the good old fashioned adsense/pay per click test.
A while back I wrote a post about how population increases will most likely outpace any effort to recycle or conserve resources. “Save a tree buy a condom” outperformed “Effects of population density on natural resources” by a few thousand percent.
On the subject of greens, I’ve found getting some freeze dried greens with some fish oil (both in pill form) has helped me a lot. Here’s an awesome video that explains how acid balance in your diet affects calcium absorption, inflamation, and weight gain. Of course that’s not interesting enough, so it’s titled “How diet soda causes weight gain” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpoAtwVyzZI
I clicked through to the Athletic Greens site, and it turns out that stuff costs $149 for a one-month supply. That stuff had better be life changing!
I believe it’s $87 for a one-month, but — yes — it isn’t the cheapest stuff out there.
From this post I guess analysis is one of the things you struggled to cut from your information diet 😀 I feel I do it too much, but I guess it’s OK if you put it into practise.
I seem to be alright with titles (How-to’s etc), and know if I write a bad one, it won’t get retweeted, there will be little traffic from Google and less comments on the whole, it’s not just for SEO that a lot of people assume.
One thing I never do is put in a buzz word (e.g. ‘red zone, the choice effect’ you have here). I’ll try that in the future though, I can see why it works. It’s simple really.
Newspapers seem to manipulate statistics to get sales or highlight them out of context – do you think this is worth doing on a blog? It reduces credibility in my eyes, but many people fool for it.
Tim, Just saw that your new blog was up via facebook, popped some popcorn, and enjoyed reading about how you hooked me and gads (can gads refer to thousands?) of others into waiting with baited breath for your next blog. Thanks for writing things worth reading and doing and for publishing it at times so those of us not in the U.S. get to read it first!
For whatever reason, I always click the clicks that say anything about “how to create headlines”…every time.
This post stands out however with your first graphic. That idea definitely gets my brain juices flowing and inspires me to try some stuff.
Great article and articulate breakdown. It seriously makes me happy that you still take the time to do these types of breakdowns and analytical thinking instead of just live off the hype. Thanks, now to apply to my lifestyle business.
U r one of my 5 choices for BlogDay2010, and it was damn hard to choose 5 only 🙂
Excellent post. Headline is an an opportunity to challenge the reader and offer a feature or benefit story. While a headline should be generally short, some readers prefer that they capture the story with just the headline. I personally prefer headlines that already tell a story. But of course, content is still important especially for SEO purpose and additional details. ..[per comment rules].. Thanks!
Awesome post, Tim! I think this post will motivate me to start blogging again. Thanks!
Hi, Tim – the way you think intrigues me, and the fact that you can explain the process is even better. You asked what else would be helpful, and having just finished your book for the 4th time – I have some product ideas for one of the few growing market segments in the US right now. Simple things, but NO experience finding manufacturers.
1) Can you go into more detail as to what this process looks like? My ideas are ones that are already in production in different sizes or forms, just need some tweaking to work for my client base, but no American companies that I’ve talked with are interested… also, how should I present myself to them?
2) How do you find companies that are fair to their employees and to the planet? I don’t mind outsourcing if I can be assured that they aren’t monsters :o)
Thanks for all your info!!
For #1, check out http://www.alibaba.com. For #2, that’s a great deal harder. Most of big boys do site visits, but even that’s no guarantee. In my experience, most manufacturing conditions are harsh overseas, but the workers choose to be there and wouldn’t want to be elsewhere. It’s important to realize that the best option for others may appear to be a less-than-ideal (or even awful) option to us, but most of us don’t live in rural China, for example.
Best of luck!
Here’s what I’d like to know, to have you write about. When you first wrote 4 Hour Work week you focused on top bloggers and radio as the marketing part of making your book a bestseller. What would you do now to make a book a bestseller?
Quick question about AthleticGreens that I can’t seem to find an answer to on their website or anywhere else: How do you take it?
Tim, super helpful post. This is an area where you have a ton of experience and expertise and I love hearing all about your specific methodology, tips, tricks and war stories. So anything else specific on how to get noticed and read online for the long term is great.
This was helpful, I am finally getting to the point where I need to pimp my blog more to get more readers.
Kansas City, MO
OMFG “WTF FTW” is a palindrome!!!!!
Definitely enjoying the distinctions you focus on. Just bought your audiobook, can’t wait to dive in!
When is it appropriate to ask for help from a-list bloggers like yourself? I have a unique service which could help a lot of people and will need help getting the word out.
Thanks for another great post.
My question has to do with the recommendation of Athletic Greens and it’s effectiveness on people who exercise while taking it v.those who just take the supplement with no exercise.
(The quotes on their page are mostly from people who exercise vigorously.)
And if you or the company had this information you could tweet the following in the spirit of your blog post;
A/B Testing: Maximize Results from Tweeting to Supplements
Haha… nice tweet title. I use it as general cover-all insurance, especially when sick or not getting much sleep. It seems to keep the immune system strong, which is good for sports, muscle gain, etc., but it’s also beneficial for everyday function. Just my 2 cents and experience.
Tim, on a slightly related topic, do you ever do AB testing on your site to see if different configurations work better for drawing readers in? If so, can you share what software you use for that?
Keep producing great stuff and they will keep coming back. Excellent work again Tim. Recently read Rolf Potts book Vagabonding on your recommendation, thanks again.
I have to praise you for writing this *TYPE* of post.
What percentage of your readers are ever going to be angel investors? 1%? Maybe? Likely less. What percentage of your readers need valuable, real world, everyday, get-your-online-business-going advice? Over 80%? Likely more.
Your blog comments are full of unanswered questions about the nuts and bolts of internet business. They tend to be the kinds of issues that are nebulous and not established yet because of the ever changing environment.
I’m not suggesting that you need to be the “make money online” guy, but the “global phenom under 10K” post/vid is chock full of rapid fire, under explained, confusing info that most of your readers will never comprehend.
When you do a laser focus item like this and define it so well you make the lives of the every day entrepreneur so much easier.
Mostly: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! For everything.
More great knowledge shared. Thanks TIm. Working on a bunch of posts for when our updated site launches and writing the headlines is probably my favorite part.
101 isn’t understandable in all English-speaking countries. It has no special meaning in British English.
Excellent post Tim!
This is my biggest problem. I seem to either give too much info away in the title or have an ambiguous headline. In either case, I think the content of my articles are good, so lets hope your advice helps!
Tim – Great points as usual. And that is the key I think many SEO folks miss. It isn’t a one or other situation (meaning writing compelling headlines for “humans” or headlines that are “search friendly”).
A good headline will accomplish both.
But, I know personally, I’d rather come up with one that is compelling as opposed to getting a bunch of keywords in it.
Very few people complain of too much traffic 🙂
Very helpful. Thanks for this.
Hail Mary headlines are often overused but the content is usually not up to the mark, hail mary headlines would click if the author is trusted and/or the technique is really something that works.
Split testing on Twitter; I love the idea….
I suppose you missed a chance early in your career: you could have used the possibility that people spell Fer(r)is(s) differently and created a different twitter account for each spelling. Probably would not have lasted very long though… and it might not split (non)native speakers equally.
Now that I blog for my company, analysis of numbers is quintessential to what and how I write. I agree, headlines are a slam dunk–today’s readers make little time to read a whole article. I wanted to point out a few tools I have used in order to dive into the numbers even further, for all you bloggers out there:
1. Google Webmaster Tools (FREE!)
2. Google Analytics (FREE!)
3. Facebook Ads (pay per click)
Because most of us don’t have the friends/followers that Tim does right now, a big part of blogging is making sure people find your blog posts via searches–so make sure all your key words, categories, and headlines are optimized for people to find you in their search. The tools above can help you with this too.
I still don’t know anyone who Tweets….sorry.
Tim this is an excellent post. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that these types of posts are very helpful and extremely insightful so thank you. Will your new book be out before the end of the year?
In the past, I had largely neglected headlines and focused solely on my content… and it started getting really lonely at my blog.
I’ve come around to realize the importance of actually taking the time to craft headlines that are interesting enough for people to take the time to read and hopefully enjoy the content.
I was somehow always worried about my blog sounding “gimmicky” if I wrote catchy or unique sounding headlines. Now I just think it’s a smart thing to do. I’m usually the last guy on the bus 🙂
Excellently researched and presented topic, as usual.
As for content, I always find the most interesting stuff to be lifestyle-related, but just because that is the personality type that I am. In reality, this type of content is most directly applicable to 4HWW, but, while immensely informative, I also find this type of content to be more standard fare for the tech-savvy communities and sites on the internet, although you tend to bring more to the table than most.
Crazy Tim Ferriss-isms like “how I saved my soul through mounted archery in Istanbul: A retrospective” – i.e., lifestyle antics, tips, and lessons learned – have always been what most piqued my interest. I also enjoy the practical, everyday tips that you drive home in the majority of your presentations – stoicism, perspective, practicality, etc. In my mind, these two topics are more or less the same in their own way.
All readers will of course be different – your mileage may vary.
Hey Tim, & Readers of Tim’s Blog,
I’m hooked on your book and blog. One Question :
What the heck kind of business do I start? Where do I find the “idea” I am to market,tweet, Facebook, and need a VA for?
I’m ready for success and to work hard/less, but am pretty clueless as to what to promote and help others with and in process, get successful with.
So many people put countless hours into their blog posts and spend only a few minutes on their headlines. Sadly, I was one of them- until now. Great post!
Honestly, i think you can do lot better Tim.Thats means its too short, why dont you do a series out of the Blogging Tipps, that could increase tension and waiting for the new post about “X”. But nice as a try with the twitter=retweeted thing
Thought of you the other night.
That’s not as creepy as it sounds.
I came across this article (http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/07/ff_stress_cure/) about stress in Wired magazine and thought of your distinction between stress and eustress. Check out the article for how that plays out in British Civil Servants.
These are great tips Tim. I wanted to get your opinion on these inquisitive types of title heads for a technical blog post. In a technical blog post, the subject itself can often lead to people asking WTF, so another level of lingual compexity may be overkill.
For example, I’m working on a post on how to correctly calculate the levelized price of energy for a renewable energy project. To the general public, this is already confusing, so it a simple title head might be best. On the other hand, I will weed out audiences who I’m not targeting, thus automatically soliciting a more consice group of appropriate readers.
If the title is too abstract, then I might re-attract the general public because they are confused whether they themselves are interested or not.
So the question is, for a technical post, would it still be wise to employ the headlining strategies you outlined? Another option would be to use the simple, straighforward title on the blog, then re-post it with a less revealing headline on the technical forums.
Please let me know what you think!
Hey Tim…Thanks for the pointers..will have to give it a try…let me know if you want to create an experiment on this with my new blog!
This is a really constructive post. What I didn’t like about it is that, having read it today, I’ve been sent here yet again – this time the link you supplied via twitter read ‘(…) examples” and I thought that – indeed – it’s pointing to a continuation of the subject. But it was a second link pointing to the same text.
I know you’ve explained what you are doing in the post, but this is slightly unfair.
Love your work – and just expressing my opinion:)
LOL! Thank you for the Hail Mary whammy hit at the end. So nice to know I fall for your tricks every time! 😉
I love the trends in blog post themes. It reminds me of the mysterious ways baby names become popular–you just never know what topic is going to pop up everywhere.
Copyblogger has a headline post up, Leo Babauta just offerred a master class on the topic, and now you too! Not that I’m complaining, they have all been useful and offered different takes on the subject (I really appreciate your data driven style).
In any event, I’ll have you know I tweeted and posted your Headline post on my Facebook page not because the headline was interesting (it was), but because the content was exactly what I’ve been looking for. I mean, really, that question has plagued me for some time, and I feel like you put the issue to rest, depending on what one is trying to achieve.
Headlines get me to read, content gets me to share. Some share without reading, but what’s the point in that? Drives up meaningless numbers, imo.
I like your suggestion about not giving everything away in the title and offering a curiosity in the title like ‘the choice effect’.
However, let me share a note. With all my sharing of ideas on personal development to my surprise in the last six months the posting I have had the most visits to on my personal development blog was a review with the title “ten children’s stainless steel water bottles review”. I wrote it to help out parents I know who want their children to drink more water for their health. The title seems to be exactly what people are searching right now. My review has been on the first page of google for a week.
Sometimes it is all about if a topic is hot or not but I did not think water bottles were hot.
No worries, the results have been very cool in a positive sense!
Life is full of surprises,
I didn’t find this too helpful; I get really excited about your posts on fast language learning and general learning hacks.
Still no news on your new book? Isn’t it scheduled to release this month? I’m getting way to excited: I’m cutting fat at the moment and I’d like to put your expert advice (as detailed in your upcoming book) for gaining muscle mass into practise ASAP to reach my goals by December.
Also, I’d like to get your book as soon as its released – will there be a worldwide release at launch? I’m in the UK and it usually takes a few more weeks/months for books to come out after their launch in the US.
Great stuff. Just like you, I’ve been a student of direct response for a long time so it makes a lot of sense for people to collect blog post titles just like I used to collect headlines in my ‘swipe’ file for inspiration and to be reworked. Anytime you click on a blog post that you find compelling (you’ll find plenty of examples in Tim’s archive) create a fill-in-the-blank template out of it.
“7 Mistakes that are killing your reputation” =
“# Mistakes that are killing your _______”
Just create a doc on your computer where you store them and take a look before your write your blog post. I always found great inspiration in John Caples “Tested Advertising Methods” for some headline words that work. Another lesson is don’t just go with your first blog post title. I will sometimes write 50-75 headlines so it’s not a bad idea to write out at least 10-20 blog title ideas.
Good call, Yanik. The “swipe” file is a brilliant idea that I used to use often with print magazines. I’d tear out any ads that got me to pause or act and put them in a binder. Caples is also a great read. “Ogilvy on Advertising” is another classic I’m sure you’ve read.
Thanks for the comment!
great post Tim. Always helpful!
I esquivou your judo brain chop.
P.S. Your perspective on harsh overseas working conditions (in your comment above) really resonates with me. What a great thing seeing both sides of the coin is.
Thanks for the info Tim..
LOL – “judo chopped your brain with a palindrome” caused twice the pain because I read it more than once!
Quick question concerning SU.PR, and I might be an idiot on this one:
If you never change the permalink once posted, how do you know which time (A or B) gets more click throughs? Doesn’t su.pr use the same permalink and show all clicks to THAT link, regardless of time? Or am I missing something.
Athletic greens looks like a great deal! Can’t wait for your new book to come out man, I’m still preaching 4HWW like it’s my job!
Very good question. If I split test, I’ll often do round be on Ping.fm to create a separate URL. For SU.PR, if you want a very rough estimate, you can also look at the clicks for the first 2-3 hours only for each “push”, even if using the same URL, but you should delete the first occurrence. It’s rough, though, and separate URLs are better.
I’m interested in reading more on what have you tried vs what has worked to get more traffic.
You opened my eyes to the A vs B type of testing – I wouldn’t have thought to try that.
I like the analysis of Seth’s work, gives the impression that you appreciate what he does. I think it really hits home when authors comment on other author’s methodologies. You’ve always seemed to be the one who was just a bit smarter than even the best of them and this post does not cease to amaze. Thanks! Keep up the crazy work you do!
Good post however when I have only 30 followers, it doesn’t make a hell of a difference what I write.
That’s what writing guest posts on higher-traffic blogs is for 🙂
Could you spend a few minutes explaining the importance of the visual components of your blog? When or why to use an image or a video? I really enjoyed this post.
All the best, Andrew
I like the idea of proposing a question in the subject line. I’m still new to email marketing, but this is good stuff for my carpet cleaning biz.
Do you speak portuguese?
Fala um pouquinho do portunhol! Or something like that 🙂 It’s pretty rough around the edges.
Tim, once again you’ve reminded me about one of my biggest challenges…testing…
You are the master of testing, reporting, and testing again. I have a huge tendency to go with my gut (which has proven a decent tactic), but I can only imagine how much more successful everything would be if I was more methodical in my testing.
Thanks again, you really have no idea how much you have improved our lives!
Travis and Robin
I’d be curious how the athletic green stuff compares to Mark Sisson’s damage control Master formula and if you have already tried both.
Dude, your blog is just brilliant and it makes up 1 of my 6 browser speedials. I laughed out loud several times throughout this – it all makes perfect sense and we know it deep down inside, but sometimes we just need someone articulate enough to say it all.
Thank you as always for being someone consistently fun to learn from!
I’ve been optimizing my headline titles for a while. This works not only for blogs but you can also test youbute headlines as well. It is really an art in itself.
Another tip for headline ideas is when standing in line at a grocery store, just read the headlines on the magazines. None of the magazines I have any interest in, but the headlines make me curious to pick up the magazine.
Last, another thing you mentioned is “People don’t want more information, they want solutions to their problem.” is a very important pieces of advice.
Awesome post as always, Tim. As other commenters have already offered, it’s great to see you break down the numbers and offer a logical conclusion.
Tim great post. I do a lot with video and on youtube. I was tracking some results tonight on youtube and found that one of our video titles that has , “HOW TO INVENT A PRODUCT IN IT, is getting much more clicks, and also is at the top of the youtube search function. I had not read this post yet but now it makes sense!!!! I found that titling in youtube makes a world of difference so this post is awesome.
I think this post is very relevant to all your readers who might be trying to make a name for themselves by vlogging and creating their own space on youtube. I think with the way video is headed more and more people will be creating their own TV shows, and video blogs.
All that to say that your wisdom applies to the youtube world as well!
Going to India in October to film a documentary. Have you been there? Anything you recommend that I have to see or try?
What did your A-B testing suggest about time spent on the article? Did the highest click through rate hold up with the highest retention?
I am always coaching my clients and my writers to invest more thought into crafting their titles, and I will reference your post in my next client newsletter.
Thanks for making me think.
That’s a great question, and one I haven’t looked too critically at. I’ve done a few prelim runs, but it’s worth a closer test. Good call.
I think this will make for a good FB ad experiment for our clinic.
while I was reading the post I felt back in time, at school, sitting at my desk, listening to my teachers talking about grammar and logical analysis… their words were (and actually are) full of wisdom.
dude, what a post 🙂 everything that one should know about maintaining suspense of article.
Awesome post brother. Keep on pumping out the wisdom. When is the fitness book coming out?
Much more coming on the new book next month 🙂
Keep up the good work. Your past two posts especially have been fantastic.
Tim, you’ve saved me some analysis of Seth’s Modus operandi, thanks.
Wonder why us Brits throw the numbers – are we just weird??
Thanks Tim. I’m going to save this post and reread it every time I blog. My titles have been less than optimal lately. I really appreciate all the free info u give & your book changed my life.
Thanks Tim! All of your post about twitter have been great. After reading your other twitter post I have seen an increase traffic, Retweets, and follower (just hit 20K!!!). I cant wait to see how much the advice from this post improves everything! Thanks again!
“Please let me know in the comments what you’d like to read more of.”
Time management!!!! I read your book over and over again but I am still have a hard time getting things done in my business and personal life. any tips that may have been in you book would be great!
Sweet stuff Tim.
Just wanted to drop a note and say, ‘thanks’.. You reopened my eyes with your book. I ran/cofounded a couple of dotcoms a while back that blew out of the water and have been just floundering around for a few years at random jobs and well, now I am back on track.
Thanks again for the inspiration.
Thanks for a helpful post.
I realize I can’t understand some things that may be specific to your culture, like previously mentioned “101” thing, but for sure I’ll try to use it with my russian blogs.
Thanks & GL
Actually really good stuff. I’ve got a tiny blog that has 2 followers! You have no idea how excited I was to get them. I’ll have to take some of your tips into consideration.
Great stuff Tim, always have enjoyed your writing style.
When it comes to split testing, here’s something that I find to take it a step further. You may already be aware of Sally Hogshead and her book “Fascinate”
Thanks for the great tips! I’m a freelance writer myself, but still learning how to use Twitter and blogging effectively.
Very well put, Tim!
I have been waiting for someone else to put something out like this. I wrote a little bit about it on my blog last month with the post: “Why Don’t People Care About Your Content?.”
People are attracted by provacative titles that tease or ask a question that they are compelled to answer. I send out a monthly e-zine on reinventing yourself. This next month’s title (instead of “September Newsletter”) will be “Your Customers Are Over You.” Doing this has tripled my readership – and response. The article “Is There a Dinosaur in Your Room” got me three clients the day it went out.
I now have reinvented the titles of almost every email I send out, too.
Ask yourself BEFORE you hit “Send,” Will anyone other than me give a rip about this title and the content? Doing that would clean up most blogs, Face Book pages and tweets.
Way to go, Tim!
For all the Copyblogger posts I’ve digested on headline writing over the years…this one is the one I’ve been waiting for. Your powerful, methodical approach truly resonates, Tim: thanks!
Headlines do rule — there’s no way around this, people.
A/B Testing is a great idea when it comes to testing ideas.
I am planning on doing this more on my websites.
Great advice – many people put a great deal of working into the content and then neglect the headline (same with email campaigns). A good headline is the teaser into the content and can significantly boost traffic and retweets.
Awesome blog, Tim.
Once a marketer, always a marketer eh?
Can’t help but notice that even with all your content about fitness, exercise, lifestyle design, etc, eventually your direct response background surfaces once again. I’m into direct response marketing on FB myself…sometimes it’s hard to stop split testing everything out there, and I mean offline just as well as online.
People should realize that even with half decent copywriting skills and a willingness to perform rigorous data testing, they are going to give themselves a tremendous edge in any industry that involves humans. Or more specifically, selling to humans.
I recommend this Gary Halbert headline quiz:
(not my link or anything, just something I found useful)
The WTF headline concept brings to mind a dinner party conversation I had with an Oscar nominated movie director (so a guy worth listening to) whom I told I was reading THE FOURTH PROTOCOL by Frederick Forsyth (an old book–and movie–unfamiliar to him). This director said, “THE FOURTH PROTOCOL; that’s a really intriguing title. I don’t know even what it means! But I love that title.”